NHS vital lifeline for the Welsh regional economy

The NHS in Wales supports more than 10% of the country’s total employment, new research has shown.

The study, carried out at Cardiff Business School’s Welsh Economy Research Unit, details what the organisation generates in terms of jobs and wages - both directly to its employees as well as to services and companies that supply and maintain NHS activity in Wales.

Co-author Dr Annette Roberts said: “Our findings show NHS Wales is a significant player in the local economy. Even small changes to funding streams could have significant economic effects.

“Spending patterns in NHS Wales are expected to evolve quickly in line with the Welsh Government’s plan A Healthier Wales so more research needs to be done to understand the wider impact of these changes.”

The report outlines how NHS activities and services impact on Welsh economic activity, both directly and indirectly.

Key findings show:

  • NHS Wales directly supported around 76,600 full-time equivalent jobs (excluding agency workers) across the whole of Wales in 2016/17. This employment was linked with 3.3bn of salaries and wages.
  • Nearly 33,000 jobs outside the health sector are also supported by NHS Wales activity - in areas such as manufacturing, business services, wholesale, retail and construction.
  • Almost 14,000 firms and organisations supply NHS Wales with goods and services. More than 6,500 of these are based in Wales.
  • In total, NHS Wales is estimated to support almost 145,400 jobs and 5.4bn of gross value added (GVA). This accounts for 11% of total Welsh employment and 9% of Welsh GVA.
  • Every 1bn of direct NHS revenue spending supports almost 19,000 total jobs in the Welsh economy.


Co-author Professor Max Munday added that NHS spending plays a stabilising role in the local economy and that this spend creates economic opportunities right across Wales, with effects not restricted to major population centres. He also stressed the role of NHS activity in supporting a healthy workforce. He noted some concerns in the health sector around the EU transition process.

He said: “NHS Wales employs staff from the EU and further afield and so changes to migration rules could bring about a more difficult recruitment climate. There is a concern that labour shortages in the NHS in England might lead to skills leaking out of Wales.

“Even so, NHS activity in Wales might arguably be less impacted by Brexit in comparison to large exporting industries and so the employment and incomes supported by it could provide something of a shield during this time of economic uncertainty.”